5 ways to become better at transcription

Ways to become a top tier transcriber and maximize your earning potential

fingers on a keyboard, online audio transcription

We generally don’t prefer to give away our highly guarded trade secrets, but we really, really like you, so what the heck.  Our guard dog, Smaug, of the heavily guarded transcription vault, in audio to text castle, is going to be so, so disappointed.

smaug, hobbit

Our guard dog Smaug @ the transcription vault

Anyway, onto it then.  A top level transcriber‘s job is not easy.  In other jobs, if you don’t understand something, you can simply ask.  Not the case for a transcriber.  The audio is recorded, you can’t go back in time.  And even if you could, and you were buzzing around like a fly in the interview room, you couldn’t simply stop buzzing and ask the speakers: “Can you repeat that please?” and risk giving everyone around a nice, juicy heart attack.  So, really, what can you do to deliver high quality transcription? Let us help:

1. General knowledge

If you live under a rock, or inside a cave, and you don’t have free Wi-Fi, you will not be able to make heads or tails of what Mr. Obama talked about in his latest speech.  Obama who??  Precisely the reason why a top level transcriber or quality analyst needs to constantly update their already vast knowledge of the world.  In a typical interview, you can encounter loads of medical, geographical, educational, scientific, legal, illegal, extraterrestrial terms, and if you have no idea what those terms mean, you might as well throw that keyboard in the bin.  But hey, there is Google!  Yeah?  But what if you don’t even know what to search?  Better to pick up a book or read news websites than shoot arrows in the dark.

2. Get accustomed

As transcribers we need to sit for long hours to work.  Give your spine, your eyes, and your chair, some relief and take frequent breaks to move around, get a breath of fresh air, watch some people arguing on TV, spy on your neighbors, torture your cat/dog etc.  But when you come back, don’t continue to destroy your keyboard straight away.  We recommend rewinding the audio a bit, maybe a minute, to revisit the topic you were working on, and let your eyes and ears get accustomed and continue from there on.  A lot of mistakes happen due to a break in continuity.


The thing with audio transcription is that you are paid to transcribe what is being said, not what you SUPPOSE is being said.  Or else the job would be called “Guess-scriber” or “Guess-scriptionist” or “Proof-guesser” or “Guessing analyst” — you get where I’m going with this.  Always listen close, and if the audio quality is bad, don’t shoot arrows in the dark, simply put a time stamp for the quality analyst to review.  If they can’t clear those, then the client will.  And if the client can’t, hey, it’s not your fault if they decided to record their interview while Godzilla and King Kong were tearing each other’s limbs apart in the background!

godzilla vs king kong

4. Revise

If you are a professional transcriber, it’s assumed you do a thorough self-proofreading of your own work before submitting it.  If not, then how are you still employed?!? 🙂

Now, just like any other sense in the human body, hearing too needs time to adapt.  You will always get better as the file goes on, unless the speakers are changing accents every two minutes.  This is why it’s always advisable to put more effort into editing the first portion of your transcript.

5. Use professional transcription software

No self-loathing or self-respecting transcriber I know uses Winamp or Windows Media Player for audio transcription.  I assume you are already using a professional transcription software, and by that I mean a software which can perform a wide range of actions, not just play, fast forward and rewind.  You should be able to slow down the audio effectively to understand a fast speaker.  Oftentimes you may need to remove high pitched sounds or reduce background noise . This is when a professional transcription software can prove to be a boon for any transcriptionist.

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